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on 13 February 2001
This is a beautiful example of Gardam's unique ability to inhabit the intense, muddled and vibrant world of the teenage mind. Reminiscent of 'A Long Way From Verona', with its war-time setting, 'The Flight of the Maidens', with its three central characters, broadens the focus - the story of Lieselotte's coming-to-terms with her origins is particularly appealing, while Hetty's ambivalence towards her mother comes across as painfully real. The broadening means the reader isn't obliged to see events from such an exclusive viewpoint as that offered in such novels as 'Crusoe's Daughter', and thus loses some of that book's weird intensity, but each character nonetheless lives vividly in the mind long after the book is over.
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on 19 April 2002
Gardam has done it again. Flight of the Maidens was an excellent read. She brings all the angst of being a young woman alive and I think everyone can find something of themself in this book. I am not sure if it betters A Long Way from Verona but with this calibre of writing you can't split hairs! Una and Hetty are amazing and utterly human characters, they question themselves the way every girl does. This is a book that keeps you company and gives moral support.
Thank you Ms Gardam you've made my day!
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VINE VOICEon 8 August 2008
Having read and loved "Bilgewater" I chose this Jane Gardam book for my book group, sure that it would be enjoyed by everyone. What a disappointment. Though Gardam is undoubtedly a fine writer this novel failed to satisfy. Exploring again the theme of coming of age, the story starts out with three heroines, Hetty, Una and Lieselotte (a Jewish refugee who arrives in the UK from Germany via kindertransport). The three girls then go their separate ways over the course of the summer holiday before starting university so the plot feels rather fragmented as the chapters deal with each of these girls and their experiences. They are not brought back together until the end of the book, as though Gardam suddenly realised she had some loose ends to tie up!

In parts their experiences tend to defy belief and enter the realms of fantasy, particularly Hetty's encounters with an aristocratic family fallen on hard times, and Lieselotte's brief stay with a wealthy new-found aunt in California. The main criticisms of the members of my group were that the plot seemed to be made up as it went along, and they didn't feel they got much out of the book. Our oldest member who remembers this period well (late 1940's, post-WW2) said that many of the period details were wrong. That worries me less, after all this is fiction, but I can see how that would irritate someone familiar with the era!

The main themes, apart from coming-of-age, are belonging, first loves, and leaving home, and there is a very heartfelt portrayal of a difficult mother-daughter relationship (reflecting perhaps Gardam's own problematic relationship with her mother, according to a Guardian interview). This was handled well and struck a chord with more than one of our members.

Jane Gardam is an imaginative and clever writer and because I so enjoyed Bilgewater (do read it!) I will try some of her others. So three stars for the quality of writing.
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on 31 May 2012
This novel takes place in Northern England during the summer of 1946 and is centered around 3 young women in their late teens who, through competitive examinations, have won scholarships to elite universities (Cambridge and the University of London). Two of them - Hetty Fellowes and Una Vane - were childhood friends. The third --- Lieselotte Klein --- is a German Jew from Hamburg who was fortunate enough to escape to Britain via the Kindertransport shortly before the outbreak of war in 1939. She was brought to the town where Hetty and Una lived, attended school with them, and lived with a Quaker family. However, after a prolonged search to see if any of her family survived the Holocaust, Lieselotte moves to London, where she is placed with an Austrian Jewish couple, the Feldmans. The novel gives the reader a view into the lives of Hetty, Una, and Lieselotte, who each embark upon a voyage of self-discovery as the summer melts into autumn. Each experiences a rite of passage that tests their resolve to forge a future largely of their own making in a chaotic world struggling to learn anew the ways of peace.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 February 2013
This is not a tense page turner by any means but I was pleasantly carried along with the gentle story and enjoyed the way the author wrote.

I liked the fact that we didn't try and follow all three girls at the same time. The author took one and we followed her story before moving on the next and finally the third. The others were mentioned while following one girl's story and it wasn't until the end that the stories merged again.

I did enjoy the way the characters were portrayed and even the side characters came to life and had endearing or annoying qualities so were memorable. The three girls were all delightful with that mix of naivety and intelligence that gilrs have at that age. They are keen to enjoy life and explore its possibilities and are not yet ground down with the strains of life despite having lived the Second World War. Perhaps that is what makes them so enthusiastic about getting on with their own lives.

Gardam paints such a great picture of a northerly town in the late forties with all the interesting characters and the descriptions of the cafe, the houses and the views of the characters too. I have not got any experience of this time in history myself but it seemed accurate from my watching of films and documentaries.

The main theme in the novel is that of three girls becoming young women, finding their first loves and moving away from home for the first time for two of them. It also touches on personal loss and relationships within families, specifically Hetty's with her mother which was very close but problematic and I thought Gardam wrote about this relationship very well.

I enjoyed the novel but can't say it was `un put down able'. In fact I had not finished it before we were due to fly to Iceland and so I left it at home as I know it would not last the few days we were away and I took another book to Iceland.

It was easy to pick up again once I had finished the other book as the book is sort of written as separate stories for part of the book. This is the kind of book I would compare to an average film that you might enjoy at home on TV but would have been annoyed to pay full price at the cinema to watch. It was readable and pleasant but not unforgettable.

The novel was well written and had a sense of humour at times. It was in no way laugh out loud but images conjured up through descriptions and sometimes the way characters spoke did sometimes make me smile. It was a gentle English sort of story written in an easy style so a book that didn't offend me nor did it make me want to rush out and buy any further Gardam books. If I see any more in Bookcrossing I will probably pick it up but I wouldn't pay good money for them.

The novel was well written and had a sense of humour at times. It was in no way laugh out loud but images conjured up through descriptions and sometimes the way characters spoke did sometimes make me smile. It was a gentle English sort of story written in an easy style so a book that didn't offend me nor did it make me want to rush out and buy any further Gardam books. If I see any more in Bookcrossing I will probably pick it up but I wouldn't pay good money for them.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 18 July 2016
First published in 2000, Jane Gardam's entertaining novel ''The Flight of the Maidens' begins in the summer of 1946 and follows three girls living in a Yorkshire town who have just won scholarships to university. Firstly there is Hetty Fallowes, whose father is a shell-shocked World War I veteran, still suffering from the ordeals he underwent at the Battle of the Somme, and whose kind, but over-protective and meddlesome mother has taken refuge in religion and in the admiration of the local vicar. Then there is Una Vane, whose doctor father committed suicide, and whose resolutely cheerful, self-trained hairdresser mother has turned their house into a beauty salon and a home for cats. Lastly, there is Lieselotte Kleine, a German Jewish refugee who arrived in England as part of the Kindertransport programme and who has been living with Quaker foster parents since the beginning of the war. As we follow all three girls as they prepare for university - Hetty to read Literature at London University, Una to read Physics at Cambridge and Lieselotte also off to Cambridge to read Modern Languages - we read of how Hetty rebels against her loving, but interfering mother and escapes to the Lake District to study, and of her meeting the eccentric Lady Fitzurse and her family, including the handsome Rupert who Hetty falls for; we learn of Una's romance with Ray (the local ex-fish boy, ex-milk boy, turned railway clerk) a fledgling socialist whose down-to-earth manliness and attitude to life attracts the fatherless Una; and we read about Lieselotte who leaves her foster family and travels to London to stay briefly with an elderly Jewish couple before embarking on a trip to the States to meet her sole surviving relation, a very rich and elderly aunt, of whom she knows nothing and did not even know she existed...

Beautifully written and deftly composed, as one would expect from Jane Gardam, this novel makes for absorbing and entertaining reading and, despite the story being rather sad at times, it's also very funny in places too. It is true that, with three main protagonists, the reader (or this one anyhow) does not really get to know the characters as much as perhaps they would like, and I wish Ms Gardam had revealed more about Lieselotte's back story and more about her inner thoughts and feelings, and I would have liked to have read more about Hetty's visit to the Lake District and of her relationship with the Fitzurse family. I do have to confess that Una's story interested me less than the other two girls' stories, and although I found her the most straightforwardly likeable personality of the three (and I do realize that her more ordinary life experiences balanced out the more unusual lives of Hetty and Lieselotte), I almost wish that the page time devoted to Una had instead been spent on Hetty and Lieselotte. That said, I always enjoy Jane Gardam's writing and I appreciate her perceptive observation and her vivid flashes of wit - and this novel, with its cast of eccentric characters leading unusual lives, will be returned to one of my bookcases to read and experience again in the future.

4 Stars.
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on 9 August 2007
Jane Gardam is so readable. Each novel I've read of hers offers quirky characters with northern humour. The language is idiomatic but accessible and the author leads her readers into a dark, funny world. The Flight of the Maidens is well-researched yet doesn't wear its wartime history heavily. I recommend it.
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on 19 November 2013
Hurrah for Jane Gardam! Reliably beguiling and archly funny. In 1946, three Yorkshire school-leavers who have won scholarships to universities blunder through a last adolescent summer with not much help from parents lost in or made dotty by two world wars.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 December 2011
One of Gardam's best books, 'The Flight of the Maidens' follows the lives of three very different girls from the same small Yorkshire town in the summer before they go to university (unusual enough, in the 1940s when this novel is set). Una, a physicist, falls in love with Ray, a local railwayman and socialist, and goes on long bike rides with him, and also discovers a passion for English literature. Hetty, daughter of a shellshocked World War I veteran turned gravedigger and a sweet but snobbish mother born to better things goes to the Lake District to study, develops a strange passion for a local aristocrat, and realizes that life is not as straightforward as she thought. And Lieselotte, a German Jewish refugee, goes on an astonishing journey first to London and then to America, where she is claimed by a distant family member. Gardam's writing is beautiful, without any of the rather 'forced' attempt to be funny or the drabness that occasionally creeps into her less successful stories and novels. I particularly liked her depiction of Una's growing passion for Ray and the descriptions of their bike rides, Hetty's realization that she may be 'saved' by education from a life of dependency such as her mother's, and the sections involving Lieselotte who I felt was a magnificent character. I didn't immediately warm to Hetty but wasn't sure that you were really meant to until the later sections - Gardam makes you gradually understand why Hetty has turned out as she has, and offers hope at the end that she may be able to have a good life. The historical information in the book was immaculately presented, and it was an excellent idea to have veterans of World War I in the book, alongside the sufferers from World War II. My only criticism is that I'd have liked a little bit more of some of the sections, particularly involving Lieselotte. I'd have liked to have known a bit more about her crazy aunt Alice (what relation was she to Lieselotte, exactly?), and who her family were. While I feel the Hetty and Una sections were well-paced and we had the information we needed, the Lieselotte sections left me hungry for more. I also feel that the book is crying out for a sequel - I'd love to know what happened to these three girls once they were settled at university.

A wonderful, all-engrossing read, and a reminder of why Gardam is such a superb novelist. Definitely 5 stars!
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on 14 August 2015
A wonderful read - I really felt I got to know the three main characters and felt the author described life in post-war Britain perfectly. I will certainly seek out other books by this author.
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